Senior Editor Phillip Marshall
That doesn’t mean that, in 2011, Auburn will not be without players who have proved themselves in the cauldron of Southeastern Conference football Saturdays. We’ve all seen what they can do. But who will be the breakout players in 2011?
Limiting the list to players who have not been regular starters in the past, here are my top 10 candidates:
1. DE Corey Lemonier. A big-time talent who was coming on at the end of last season. He's added bulk and strength to the go with high-end speed and athleticism.
2, WR DeAngelo Benton. If he can stay healthy, he has everything you’re looking for in a wide receiver. Nobody works any harder.
3. LB Eltoro Freeman. Reports are that he has gotten his act together on and off the field. If he has, look out. He’s as talented as any linebacker in the SEC.
4. LB Jake Holland. A bit player as a freshman last season, Holland is likely to be called on to be the man in the middle this season..
5. WR Trovon Reed. A knee injury that wouldn’t seem to go away cost Reed his true freshman season. He’s healthy now, and there’s a reason the screams from Louisiana were long and loud when he left the state to play for Auburn.
6. DT Jeffrey Whitaker. Talented and mature beyond his years, Whitaker will be counted on to anchor the inside on defense.
7. DE Dee Ford. He looks like a different guy physically than when he arrived. He always had speed and athleticism, and now he has size to go with it.
8. DE Craig Sanders. When a player has the talent Sanders has and plays as hard as Sanders does, it’s only a matter of time before big things happen.
9. CB Chris Davis. A big-time talent with world-class speed, Davis made steady progress last season and now will have a chance to be a starter.
10. S Demetruce McNeal. Don’t be surprised if this guy becomes a star sooner rather than later.
Honorable mention: RB Anthony Morgan, DT Kenneth Carter, CB Ryan White, OG Jared Cooper, OG John Sullen, RB Ladarious Phillips, CB Jonathan Mincy, CB Jonathan Rose, WR Travante Stallworth, C Blake Burgess, S Ikeem Means.
There are other candidates, including some who just arrived on campus and some who haven't arrived yet. Based on quarterback Gus Malzahn's track record, it's safe to say that a quarterback will be on this list in the end. We just don't know which one.